More people access the internet from mobile devices now than from laptop or desktop computers. Over 68% of American adults connect to the internet using smartphones. With more web traffic coming from smart phones and other mobile devices, it makes business sense to create mobile-friendly websites. The prevalent solution until recently was to create separate websites for tablets and smart phones. Managing multiple versions of the same content can be challenging. Responsive Web Design (RWD) is an elegant solution to this problem.What is Responsive Web Design?Before we get into what Responsive Design is, let me show you what Responsive Design does. Here is what the Boston Globe website looks like on a desktop computer.

 

Now here is what the same website looks like when viewed on a smart phone.

 Notice how the header and the navigation bar is automatically rearranged for better viewing on a smaller screen. That is what responsive design is all about. It is about designing a website in such a way that it recognizes the device that each visitor uses to view it and automatically changes the layout for best viewing.Responsive Design Can Save You Time and MoneyWhen web developers first started making websites that render well on smaller devices like smartphones and tablets, the popular solution was to develop multiple versions of a website each designed to render well on a specific screen size. The users would then be redirected to the appropriate version based on their screen size. Maintaining multiple websites like this can be time consuming and expensive. Responsive design requires that you to maintain only one version of a site. The web server changes the layout as needed for the remaining screen sizes by first sensing what the device is that is being used to view the site.SEO Benefits of Responsive Web DesignMaintaining multiple versions of the same site can invite the wrath of search engines that may see both sites as serving duplicate content. There are ways to notify search engines that the multiple versions are being maintained for mobile compatibility. Google, however, recommends RWD as the preferred method of mobile optimizing websites and favors responsive-designed sites when presenting search results.Unlike multiple websites maintained for mobile compatibility, responsive websites use only one homepage URL and one set of pages and files. This makes it easier and simpler for search engines to crawl and index the site content.Another advantage of RWD is that with RWD, all of your internal links and backlinks point to one domain. With multiple sites, each site has a different URL. For instance the mobile site may have a domain like mobile.domain.com. This has negative impact on search engine optimization.Mobile websites can suffer from a high bounce rate if their content is too dissimilar from that on the desktop version of the site. This high bounce rate is interpreted by Google as an indication that a website is not providing relevant information or content the user is looking for, which can result in a drop in ranking. With RWD however, the same content is being served no matter which device is used. Only the layout is changed.Responsive Design Enhances User ExperienceUser-friendly websites make it easier for visitors to find, navigate, understand and share content quickly and easily. Search engines consider user experience as an important criteria in determining search engine ranking. Different devices are operated differently. Whereas on a desktop it is easy to navigate using a mouse or a keyboard, on smart phones the site is navigated using a fingers on a touch screen. The size and positioning of the links determine whether a link that the visitor intended to click is the one that was actually clicked. RWD ensures that the text is large enough to be easily read and links are easy big and separated enough for easy navigation.Limiting scrolling to vertical scrolling also makes it easier to read and enjoy content on a smart phone. RWD can ensure this as well. Ultimately, the goal of a website, as with any other media, is to communicate ideas to visitors in the hope of persuading them to take some sort of action, be it changing their minds about something or buying a product. Poorly rendered message distracts from this goal. Responsive design helps you to connect with your audience, regardless of the device they use to view your site. It achieves this goal while being search engine friendly and cost effective.

 

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